It’s half term! I realise that I owe you all a Tree Fu Tom winner but that will come later, once I
can be bothered to do some counting have finished refining the complex algorithm needed to generate the winner. But for now, here’s what we did today. It’s Dinosaur Week on CBeebies and to celebrate, we went to the Natural History Museum to watch a special dino-themed preview!
There were not one but two new shows to watch, one of which premiered on CBeebies this morning so by the time we got to the screening, Reuben already considered himself to be a “Dinopaws” expert. He saw a picture of the dino-pals and squealed “It’s Dinopaws! I like them!” as if he’d seen it more than once. When it comes to CBeebies he’s an early adopter.
“Dinopaws” is a new animated adventure, written by the very funny Alan Gilbey, who we know vaguely through a friend. We have often wandered around Spitalfields with Alan as our guide, on the “Backpassages” tour, so it’s lovely to see him doing so well. Reuben was impatient to get on with the screening, but first there was coffee to be drunk and dino-clocks to find:
There was also a guy taking green screen photos where you could appear in either “Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures” or “Dinopaws”. Here’s me and Roo being menaced by a T-Rex:
We also spotted Andy himself. The invite had said there’d be a chance to meet him, but he seemed to be busy, chatting to people and talking on the phone so we didn’t approach him. It did seem a bit strange that he wasn’t chatting to any of the kids but hopefully we’d meet him later (I won’t keep you in suspense…we did). Meanwhile, Roo did some colouring and Eva showed off her dino-dungas (Nathan and Roo had dino-themed clothes too. Sadly, I don’t have any)
Then, it was time to go through to the screening and we sat at the back, a few rows behind Andy. And then in bounced…Andy! Hang on, a second – isn’t he sitting down there? Is this some fancy split-screen effect? No, there were two of him. It turned out that the slightly standoffish Andy out in the foyer wasn’t Andy at all but his older brother. What larks! They look similar enough to be in a Shakespeare comedy, so that’s the next CBeebies panto sorted…!
The real Andy got things started with a T-Rex song, complete with actions and lyrics that rhymed “mouthful” and “doubtful” (not a song by the 70s glamrock band, though their rhyming skills weren’t much better). Both kids enjoyed roaring like a dinosaur, although I think it was a bit much for a small child in front of us, who just started sobbing. Time to move on to the entirely unscary world of “Dinopaws”, where three friends lolloped about, looking for a rock with a smiley face on before getting stranded on a rock pile in the middle of the sea. There was a hint of peril in it, but I’m sure the tide went back out again and they were fine. We’ll see in the next episode! Either way, it was funny, charming and brightly-coloured enough to appeal to toddlers as well as school kids.
Then onto the big one….”Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures”! Andy has moved on from Pickles’ Animal Park and is now working at the National Museum, a strange mash-up of the Natural History Museum (interiors) and the British Museum (exteriors…although I’m pretty sure it’s not the British Museum, it just looks like it). The plot revolves around the clock we posed with above – it’s actually a time machine, that propels Andy back into prehistory for slightly contrived reasons (but this is Beebies – it’s OK to be contrived!). It’s a wild ride, with Andy being flung about by a diplodocus and hunted down by a T-Rex. He surfs down volcanoes, tiptoes over swamps and flies through forests on a balloon he happens to have in the bag of tricks known as Hatty’s backpack (Hatty is Andy’s colleague and Dinosaur Expert, played by Kate Copeland). It more than stands up against “Andy’s Wild Adventures” and had everyone whooping and laughing. As Andy’s Dad says, it should do very well.
And then we got to meet Andy afterwards. Roo showed him the dino-sock puppet he’d made (a sock with some eyes stuck onto it) and Andy was suitably impressed. You can see the sock on Roo’s hand in the picture. As Andy’s Dad said, Andy is a natural with kids and is the same off-screen as on. He’s a very genuine person. Obviously, Roo was thrilled to meet him – don’t let his slightly odd look above make you think otherwise. He’s just an odd-looking child.
As I queued to get our coats, I started chatting with the man behind me, who turned out to be Andy’s Dad (in case you were wondering where I got all those opinions from). He told me a lot about Andy, such as the fact that he beat 700 people to the CBeebies job and that he was once in panto with Jeremy Beadle, who was also a very nice person apparently. He confirmed that yes, Andy has a brother who looks like him and that I wasn’t going crazy and that he’s very proud of all his sons. Andy’s Dad was lovely.
After that, it was lunchtime and that meant dealing with NHM half-term crowds. At 12:30. With estate agents calling me with alarming messages. Bad times. The benugo cafe was crowded and it was a long wait, but we eventually got some kids’ snack bags and overpriced sandwiches. If you’re a Museum of Childhood regular, you may be familiar with both of these. If you’re visiting this week, don’t make the same mistake as we did and actually try to eat at lunchtime – we’ve found that 11:15 is a good time for eating in museum cafes without the crowds. I’m hungry all the time so it doesn’t bother me to eat quite so early.
It was so crowded that we didn’t want to linger in the cafe, so we handed our table over to a very nice Times journo and headed on up the one-way escalator to shaky-Earthville:
You can’t take buggies on the escalator, but there’s a lift if you keep walking past it. Not a problem for us, as we’d remembered the tediousness of taking a buggy round the NHM from our last visit. We didn’t bring any spare shoes for Nathan this time either. At the top, you get to the bit about volcanoes and earthquakes, which Reuben was interested in because Andy had been to a volcano on one of his adventures. Like everywhere, it was crowded and we kinda skimmed the exhibits, stopping to press some buttons on the giant map and pretend to burn ourselves on the the hot core of the Earth:
We also found the famous earthquake simulator, which we’d entirely missed last time. For anyone who didn’t go there on a school trip as a kid, the simulator is a mock-up of a Japanese supermarket, where the entire floor shakes and slopes, just like a real earthquake. Reuben loved it and wanted to stand on the wobbly floor again, but he was tempted away by the promise of dinosaurs.
Pity then that there was an hour’s wait to get to the dinosaur room. We decided to skip it, as both kids were tired and I was feeling grotty with a cold and a sleepless night behind me. We saw Dippy in the main hall, and also found the corner where Andy’s dino-clock was located in the show. But no animatronic T-Rex on this occasion. Don’t tell Roo…!
“Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures” is on CBeebies Mon-Fri at 4:30PM. “Dinopaws” is on at 7:45AM. If your kids, like mine, are addicted to the CBeebies app then you’ll find a fun game on there, where you can feed the dinosaurs by throwing them bits of meat or plants. And there’s general dino-fun on Beebies all week.